Peacock

Peacock
Peacock

Friday, October 28, 2011

Goodbye to Choke Canyon State Park

I've been going to Choke Canyon State Park almost every year almost since I came to Texas in 1990. I don't remember why I started going, but the paddling and the wonderful birds kept me coming there. I used to go in January, until one year, a snowstorm kept me from going. Then I discovered that, most years, the first weekend of spring happens the third weekend of February.  It is warm enough to paddle in  shirt sleeves but  a jacket is often needed at night. AND it's cold enough that most of the wintering birds are still here while we often see western and Mexica birds.  Soon I was bringing a few friends and lately we have had around 25 people attending.

There are many places to paddle in the Reservoir but I love paddling up or down the Frio River the best. But we often hang out in the reservoir to watch the sunset and enjoy the many birds. We usually bird the parking lot and 75 Acre Lake and then the part of the reservoir that is very near the lake. Two years ago, we got to see the northern jacana that spent the winter there.

Last winter,  I put up oranges as soon as I got to my campsite and they were completely gone in twenty minutes. Most of the bird pictures I took were of birds eating oranges or seeds at my site. We had the best show in town.  I loved hanging out in my hammock and reading and then taking a picture of yet another species. Some of the special species there include green jays, verdins,  long-billed trashers, olive sparrows, Audubon's orioles,  and golden-fronted woodpeckers.  We even had pine warblers coming to oranges.

My friend, Winnie,  took over the running of the trip last year and promises to keep it going. But I wanted to visit one more time and invited a fellow paddling and birdwatching friend to join me. We had a very quiet couple of days doing easy birding and just hanging out. We put up oranges and black oil sunflower seeds and soon had plenty of visitors.  I hardly took any pictures because we started late in the day and the light was harsh, and I knew most of the birds would be a long ways off, too far to get good pictures. But I've added a few from my memories.

A green jay in our make-do ground feeder

Golden-fronted woodpecker - probably the most common bird after great-tailed grackles

Audubon's oriole - the main reason we put up oranges

Crested Caracara

That Texas Icon

Brushy Bluestem was making a beautiful show last weekend

Paddling in the Frio River

There are lots of javelina in the park

We almost always see an osprey

A long-billed thrasher came to eat black oil sunflower seeds at our ground feeder

My Australian friend, Winnie at whose house I'm staying and who will continue
this birding/paddling tradition